11:49 am EDT, September 17, 2020

‘The 100’ season 7, episode 14 review: Two to go

The 100 season 7, episode 14 is a good episode that unfortunately is weighed down by inconsistent nonsense.

There are many, many people involved with making a TV show who aren’t writers, and who have no say regarding the plot itself. These people are tasked with making everything come together visually, emotionally and audibly. But once the finished product reaches the viewers, every element is ultimately there to support the story.

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But these people still do an excellent job, and The 100 season 7, episode 14 will exist as a testament to that skill and level of dedication – which seems to me even more impressive, considering how nonsensical and meaningless the story has become.

“A Sort of Homecoming” was written by Sean Crouch and directed by Jessica Harmon, who plays Niylah. Harmon isn’t the first actor on the show given an opportunity to direct an episode, but she’s the one whose episode I’ve been most curious to see, because as far as I am aware, she has serious aspirations to take her career in that direction.

It is a shame her work is being overshadowed by conversations about the direction of season 7 at large, but such is the nature of episodic television. Fans are ultimately here for the overall experience, and it’s no secret that most of us are just… devastated, frankly, by what feels like the show sabotaging its own legacy in the 11th hour for reasons we don’t and can’t understand.

It is even more of a shame for all of that anger and disappointment to be unleashed on this episode, because if I’m not mistaken, it was supposed to be a joyful, uplifting hour; an acknowledgement and celebration of the emotional bonds that have tied this story together, until last-minute rewrites forced it to change tone and direction.

It obviously becomes an unequal viewing experience when you have to fuse two so completely different vibes together, and no writer or director could be expected to make that seamless.

But you know what? There will be a lot of people watching this episode, or parts of it, who aren’t familiar with the show to the extent the fans on Twitter (myself included) are, and probably won’t notice or mind the inconsistencies that much. I sure hope so, anyway.

Because out of context, this episode is great. The 100 might be ending, but these final few episodes clearly contain so many beginnings for so many people, Jessica Harmon included. As a calling card, “A Sort of Homecoming” will hopefully serve her well.

Forget the story as a whole for a second, and delight in Gabriel teaching Madi to play the piano. The intimate love scene between Miller and Jackson (on The CW!). Indra and Gaia reuniting. Hope and Jordan finding each other. That insanely tense tracking sequence of Clarke and Octavia (and Sheidheda) looking for Madi.

Damn, would I have liked to experience this episode as a casual viewer, because I definitely would have enjoyed it. I obviously can’t, and I clearly didn’t, but there is still a lot to objectively appreciate.

Because I do not actually write these reviews to stew in negativity and frustration, there are a few scenes and character beats I want to highlight, that I think were executed with particular finesse.

And if you’re here for the criticism, there’s a laundry list at the end for you to sink your teeth into. A little something something for everyone. Enjoy!

Celebration time (come on)

The first scene I want to highlight is the one with Miller and Jackson in bed. Hahahah I know, SHOCKER. But hear me out.

For one, this scene does a lot to make up for the way The 100 has otherwise kept this particular relationship at arms’ length. For a show that prides itself on diversity, the offhand and chaste approach to Miller’s relationships compared to the emotional and physical intimacy afforded the straight and wlw couples has been very suspect.

There are many ways this conversation could have been framed, and it was a bold and meaningful choice to make it this intimate. Yes, give them a topless sex scene. Why the hell not? Murphy and Emori have had like seventeen of them.

In terms of the dialogue, for which we have Sean Crouch to thank, I really appreciate that while it is Jackson driving the scene, it really is all about Miller, his relationship with Bellamy, his guilt over the bunker, his dad — basically, all the insight into his character that we knew was there, but which he has never been allowed to express before.

It might be too little too late, but I don’t appreciate it less for that. Jarod Joseph deserves this moment, he has worked seven years for this moment, and everyone involved with the scene does the absolute most with what they’re given. It’s something they can be proud of and take with them and hopefully use in some meaningful way.

In terms of directing, this scene is also where Jessica Harmon’s talent shines through the most. Admittedly, I am a tad bit predisposed to like any and all Mackson scenes, but regardless of which characters it had been about, it just carries an emotional weight and gentleness that a show like The 100 needs to balance out the gritty and gruesome.

You need writers that have the balls to go hard both for the violence and the emotion, and you need directors that have enough sense of both camera and actor performances to slow down and linger in a way that feels meaningful. I hope other people in the industry recognize the value of that.

Next up is Madi. For all that these past few episodes have destroyed the emotional and narrative credibility of everything and everyone, Madi remains the one character that hasn’t yet fallen prey to plot contrivances.

A lot of it is in Lola Flanery’s performance. Madi feels real in a way that she wouldn’t necessarily have done with a lesser performer, and her wordless reactions to everything make all the difference.

Madi is clearly as overwhelmed, confused, heartbroken and frustrated as everyone watching, and that provides a sense of catharsis that you wouldn’t get from dialogue alone.

And when she has that little moment of levity with Gabriel, it feels so huge, because this child can still smile and laugh and have a good time, and it matters, and it makes Sheidheda closing in on her all the more urgent and terrifying.

The writing for Madi is also great, mostly because she isn’t given any of the expositional, retconny lines that turn the characters around her into plot devices. When she confronts Clarke in the sleeping quarters, it is perhaps the only time during the episode that anyone’s reactions and emotions feel 100% self-aware and true to what has come before.

We all know that Clarke killing Bellamy was neither justified nor necessary under the circumstances, and it only adds insult to injury that so many characters’ credibility has to be destroyed for the purpose of trying to convince the audience otherwise.

But Madi calls her out on it. And even better, she actually stands up for her right to be a real person with a stake in the story, and not just a passive plot device introduced to excuse Clarke’s terrible behavior. (It is, weirdly, almost like she is defying the plot, not Clarke, but it works.)

Because no, Clarke killing Bellamy “for Madi” – even if it had been justifiable in the moment – is not an act of love. It is a brutal, gruesome, horrible thing, and a terrible burden to place on a child. As Madi says herself, “You think you’re protecting me, but you’re not. You ruined my life. Just like you ruined your own.”

And this is exactly what Clarke has done. At this point, it is hard to believe that we are meant to see Clarke and Madi’s relationship as a positive thing. It feels like Madi is Clarke’s excuse, more than her child; that her idea of ‘motherhood’ is to give herself permission to embrace the worst parts of her personality.

In the name of protecting Madi, Clarke is manipulative, she is selfish, she is cruel and she is controlling. Anything she does “for Madi” is plain awful. Sometimes she is directly awful to Madi. And every time Madi voices any opinion about it, Clarke shuts her down.

In this instance, killing Bellamy and essentially telling Madi it is her fault is incredibly harmful, and it directly leads to Madi stabbing herself in the stomach because she can’t take the guilt of having people she love die and kill for her. That is horrible. But it is also a logical psychological consequence, and it’s great that the episode acknowledges the toll Clarke’s actions have taken on Madi.

Even if none of the other characters seem to share Madi’s level of contextual awareness, it is important for Madi to vocalize all of this before choosing to give herself up to Cadogan. Because I expect that part of the final conclusion to this story will prove Cadogan (and Bellamy) partially right — that whatever ‘tribalism’ wormhole Clarke has fallen into here may be the exact opposite of “for all mankind,” but it definitely isn’t better.

I also want to highlight the great moment between Octavia and Indra outside the bunker. Disregarding how much they have screwed Octavia over this season (first she wasn’t allowed to mourn Diyoza, now she has to accept the death of Bellamy, and she didn’t even get to be there when it happened), the lingering trauma of Blodreina is at least acknowledged and processed.

It was about time she and Indra had a reckoning about it, and for Indra to properly take responsibility for what she and the other adults around Octavia turned her into.

“Blodreina was all of us” is kind of a copout resolution to something that I really wanted them to dig into more, psychologically, but it does serve to absolve Octavia in this moment, which is obviously Indra’s intention.

Indra ends up making peace with both of her daughters in this episode, and even puts words on how different her relationships have been with them: while Indra was Octavia’s teacher, Gaia was hers. It’s beautiful, really, and it’s nice to see that this little shard of emotional through line is intact and seems valued by the writers.

Finally I just briefly wanted to mention Hope and Jordan, a romantic development I might be one of the only viewers who actually likes.

(And yes, I am aware of the hypocrisy of the whole ‘this show isn’t about ships’ discourse, when it so clearly is, but whatever.)

This pairing feels inevitable, in a good way. There is something fated about the son of two peacemakers and the daughter of two killers, both raised in peaceful isolation, both having their hearts ripped open when they encounter the rest of what they must both consider a broken and cruel species, and finding something pure and sweet together.

What is humanity if not small, beautiful moments of togetherness amidst all the darkness? The fact that Hope and Jordan can forge a connection here, now, in defiance of all the hurt and pain they’ve both endured, is emblematic of what ultimately saves and redeems us as a species.

Plus, Octavia and Monty’s friendship in the early seasons never really paid off in a meaningful way, but this sort of serves to retroactively make it more poignant.

And aside from the thematic value, I just really like their scenes together.

For one thing, it is one of the show’s only romances in which the characters have had equal importance individually before finding their way to one another, which automatically gives their moments double value: it’s not just a main character interacting with their love interest, it’s two interesting individuals growing and changing as a result of them coming together.

Shannon Kook and Shelby Flannery have to sell this relationship so fast, and like every other challenge they’ve had to take on, they nail it. I’m so glad The 100 discovered them both and allowed us to spend some time with Hope and Jordan, and I only wish we could have gotten more.

In terms of the writing and directing, it’s funny, because I just watched Normal People and that show blew my mind simply because of how much truth the characters are allowed to speak out loud; how much time the main characters spend speaking, acknowledging, and processing their respective inner lives together. I feel like Hope and Jordan do that here, briefly, in a very similar way.

I’m not sure if it’s because they have existed as complete characters outside of their connection and thus have independent thoughts and feelings, or if it is just that they are new, and therefore less tainted by the cloud of silence and repressed emotion that seems to hang over The 100’s original characters.

Either way, Hope and Jordan get to actually sit down and speak simple emotional truths to each other, without the show feeling the need to eschew the human authenticity in favor of revealing plot-relevant information or making grand thematic statements. It’s nice.

Everything wrong with ‘The 100’ season 7, episode 14

Okay, that about covers the good parts.

Keep reading if you, like me, are processing all this nonsense by reading and listening to all our fellow fans’ savage takedowns on Twitter, in reviews and podcasts. I certainly don’t want to deprive anyone of my salt, as much as it annoys me that I have to be salty at all.

But overall I am, frankly, just exhausted and disappointed. There came a point this episode when I stopped noting down the inconsistencies, because the show is just drowning in them. None of it matters, and none of this is done in the service of the characters and their stories. It is all just a means to an end; a disregard for the journey to force a certain ending.

(An ending that I’m still convinced won’t be nihilistic – it will see humanity’s good sides win out over the bad, and it will see them transcend. Religious propaganda, maybe, but not exactly nihilistic. And it can still be good! It just won’t make any of this less bad.)

I really don’t feel like there is enough depth and weight here to warrant me trying to make sense of it, so, a compromise. I’m just going to list all my wayward complaints, and you can take it or leave it.

Oh, and beware of swear words. I’ve been saving them up for six years.

  • So Earth… is just… fine now? Lol okay fuck Monty I guess.
  • Trees do not grow that tall that quickly.
  • Raven and Octavia hugged? Bullshit. They haven’t interacted since Octavia was Blodreina. This is meaningless.
  • Octavia UNDERSTANDS that Clarke killed Bellamy? Because of what context or evidence, exactly? Because she found a new family to be loyal to while he was out there desperately trying to save her? Because they had one interaction after reuniting and that basically convinced her that he was beyond hope, and therefore disposable? Wow, if so.
  • The only way any of this makes sense is if we take their word for Bellamy being gone “a long time ago,” but how can anyone who has been paying attention actually do that? It hasn’t been a long time, and they made zero effort to understand his point of view. Compare that to how the delinquents were willing to go to the ends of the Earth to save Raven after she took the ALIE chip in season 3, and it is so clear that this is plot driving character, and driving it into the damn ground.
  • Clarke has to seek Echo’s forgiveness? And she forgives her? Are you kidding me?
  • ECHO ALMOST COMMITTED GENOCIDE FOR BELLAMY THREE DAYS AGO.
  • “I tried everything, I promise.” No she fucking didn’t, stop lying.
  • As bad as it is that Echo and Octavia are absolving Clarke for murdering Bellamy, it is so much worse that Clarke works so hard this episode to absolve HERSELF. Nothing but excuses and lies and self-pity.
  • “I will not lose anyone else” has ZERO power anymore, she’s said that way too many times. Also, she’s not everyone’s mom, why does she get to control where anyone but Madi goes?
  • On Gaia’s “I am no man” line… I will say it’s pretty satisfying for them to copy such an iconic line and give it to a Black woman, but the direct copying of Lord of the Rings is so extreme now, it’s getting a bit ridiculous.
  • Gabriel wants to get back to his people? What people? They were all executed.
  • Could Octavia and Hope not have spent a single moment together in this episode?
  • At this point it seems moot to try to question the logic of anything, but why does Cadogan even need Madi when he already has Sheidheda, who knows about the stone and the last war as well? Who’s to say Madi has memories Sheidheda doesn’t? Could we at least entertain the possibility?
  • And since when did Sheidheda have a giant tattoo on his shoulder? Lol @ continuity.
  • Those warp pills are absurd and were clearly invented specifically for this episode, otherwise they would have given them to Hope to use on Octavia in season 6.
  • Since they knew the invaders were invisible, why would they run around speaking Madi’s location out loud?
  • Murphy is right, he isn’t a hero just because he doesn’t want to leave the people of Sanctum to suffer. The bar for heroics really is just that low.
  • Did he really say that Bellamy… manipulated Raven? On the ring? Why would he even do that? There was nothing to manipulate her into doing. What the actual hell.
  • I am also super peeved at how much the show focuses on Murphy being a “hero” when Emori is right there. Call a woman a hero sometime dot com.
  • That it took Bellamy dying for Echo to finally reclaim her identity as Ash is… kind of emblematic of why I always disliked that dynamic. I really wanted better for Echo.
  • Niylah was named for Queen Nia, because her mother was Azgeda. That’s a cool detail and I wish I could believe it was a real thing that informed her character before they invented it for this episode.
  • Raven: literally sees the stone located underground in the arena. Raven half an hour later: has no idea where the stone is.
  • “We are who we choose to be” is basically the endgame of the show in a sentence. We are capable of both good and evil, and they’ll win or lose the war based on what side of humanity they choose to embrace.
  • How much better would all of this have gone over if Bellamy had gotten Gabriel’s death scene? What if, instead of Gaia, Bellamy had been taken to Earth and chilled there off screen until everyone arrived, reunited and had a good time. Then he had a soft moment with Madi and died to save her life, surrounded by his friends and family and sent off with the traveler’s blessing. It really would have made all the difference.
  • (…Was this the original plan? Because if so, damn. I’m sorry. That would have been great.)
  • But hey, RIP Gabriel. A class act to his final breath, which he used to stop Jackson from saving his life because he refused to suffer through another second of this nonsense. I respect that.

The penultimate episode of The 100 airs next Wednesday at 8/7c on The CW.

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